Not so Random Chavismo Target of the week: Twitter

July 10, 2010

What are we to make of the war on Twitter, which was started this week by the Chavez Government?

I mean, up until a couple of days ago, we were told that the co-founder of Twitter was praising Chavez for “revolutionizing” the social network and not two days later, two people are arrested for spreading rumors about the Venezuelan banking system and fifteen more are being threatened with arrest.

Their crime? Suggesting that a local bank, which shall remained unnamed, was in trouble.

But just a few months ago, Chavez in his variety show Alo Presidente and Chavez former Minister of Defense/Foreign Relations/Interior and VP Jose Vicente Rangel both spread rumors against banks in general and also against very specific ones, but nobody dared suggest that they should be jailed. So, what gives?

To me this is another case of a Not So Random Target of the Week by Chavismo. Chavismo persecution is like that, you never know who is the target each week, but beware if you happen to be “it”. I am sure the Ciudad Bolivar Twitteros never imagined the Government would go after them, the same way the butchers never thought they would be jailed or the brokers intervened.

But it does mean that a message is being sent. After all, how can the CIPCC (investigative police) have so much time to look for Twitteros the same week that a girl’s finger is cut with a Machete by her kidnappers to send it to  her parents as proof of life? Are they doing something about this case, or is that irrelevant to them? Has the investigative police become that insensitive to people’s suffering?

The answer is that anything political has a priority over reality or suffering and Twitter may have been a battle that Chavez thought he could win or was winning, but it obviously has hurt him recently, thus some Cuban “Intelligence” official decided to make sure he slows down the spreading of putrid or corrupt news via the social network. What better way to make people think twice about saying something bad about the Dictator than this not so veiled threat?

And people forget that there is an additional implicit message in this. Not only did they arrest two people, but they had the means of locating them, after all, who  puts his/her address or phone number in Twitter? The Government or the CIPCC had the technology to locate, find and detain these people (or you!). And now it says there will be fifteen more jailed soon (Are you one of them?). Thus, beware, you could be (or are!) next, that is precisely the message that is explicitly being sent.

And tomorrow Chavez will say in his variety show that there is actually freedom of twitting in Venezuela, after all, only “two” people have been detained for “violating the law” with Twitter, but those that criticize him are not being persecuted, only those that violate the law.

As I always say, I just hope bloggers are not the next not so random target of Chavismo. I have had enough as it is.

20 Responses to “Not so Random Chavismo Target of the week: Twitter”

  1. island canuck Says:

    Miguel:

    From the sounds of it you won’t have to take it any more.

    It looks like the government is about to pass a law that will effectively close all brokerage houses by eliminating the way they can do business.

    http://venepiramides.blogspot.com/2010/07/gobierno-sepultara-al-mercado.html

  2. m_astera Says:

    This is pretty blatant repression and intimidation, and by extension it impacts every twitter user and every internet user in the world. The more people hear about this, worldwide, the better.

  3. Susan Says:

    Meanwhile in the US:

    A fugitive critic of the Venezuelan government, Guillermo Zuloaga, has appeared in the US to denounce what he says is political persecution.

    Mr Zuloaga owns Globovision, the only television channel to remain openly critical of the government.

    He went into hiding in Venezuela last month after the authorities ordered his arrest for alleged profiteering.

    He has now appeared in Washington at the inter-American commission for human rights.

    “We have come to find the justice we cannot find in Venezuela,” Mr Zuloaga said in an interview with Globovision from outside the commission.

    “Let them come here and prove that we have committed any crime”.
    ‘Not political’

    Police began searching for Mr Zuloaga and his son a month ago after they were charged with illegal profiteering by hoarding cars for sale in two businesses they own.

    The Venezuelan government insists the case against him is not politically motivated.

    President Chavez has previously accused Globovision of supporting a coup attempt against him in 2002.

    Mr Zuloaga, a millionaire businessman, is one of the highest profile opposition figures in Venezuela.

    He said he would continue to speak out against the government.

    “I reassure our viewers that I will not rest for a single moment in the defence of the principles and values of our country”, he said.

    The opposition say the charges against him are part of a wider effort by Mr Chavez’s government to gag the media.

    Six other private television stations were made to stop broadcasting in January for breaking a law on broadcasting government information, and radio stations have also been forced off air.

    But the government says the regulations were designed to make Venezuela’s media more democratic and representative. S.

  4. loroferoz Says:

    “The answer is that anything political has a priority over reality or suffering”

    A history of the totalitarian mindset can be summarized in so few words. This answer is the key to the thinking of communists and fascists.

  5. moctavio Says:

    Island Canuck: They dont have to pass the new law, they banned brokers from doing anything interesting or profitable already

  6. moses Says:

    Miguel:

    Check this headline in “La Voz de Guarenas”:

    http://www.diariolavoz.net/seccion.asp?pid=18&sid=424&notid=334223

    15 usuarios más de redes
    sociales están siendo investigados

    9 años de cárcel para
    twitteros “golpistas”

    9 years of jail for “couper” Twitters

  7. jeffry house Says:

    The usual term for causing fear by individual prosecutions for speech is the “chilling effect.” That is one reason why speech (or tweeting) should not be regulated. To prosecute one or two persons is to reduce the sum of information which others are willing to share. It forces a self-regulation which errs on the side of silence.

  8. A_Antonio Says:

    In other subject, people are worry or suggest about leave the country.

    I suggest to people that are thinking about to look for web pages, like: “mequieroir” and “aemigrar”.

    Also talk to friends about their familiars that emigrated to Colombia, Peru, Brasil or Argentina. Some south American countries have better prospect future. Because Venezuelan economy is insanity with a disaster waiting to happens.

    If Venezuelan people will not vote very against Chavez September 26th. You can think very seriously about leave with your family. Maybe, will be not late to leave the country at that time. But planning and execute a good emigration take like one year or two.

    I did it, and yes, it is very costly and you playing with near ruining your family economy, but after some years, you always ask to yourself why did you take so long time to decide to do it. What a fool to think that maybe Venezuela people change and learn something.

  9. GeorgeS Says:

    For about $20 a quarter you can get protection and anonimity using

    http://www.ipredator.se

    You will Tweet via ipredator servers in Sweden and CIPCC will have no way of checking you.

  10. Kepler Says:

    Antonio,
    I am in no position to judge people who at this stage want to leave Venezuela. At the same time I have to say that is precisely what the soldaducho Chávez wants to happen: that people who count and could take
    leading action decide to leave as they left Cuba: just empty Venezuela of thinking people.
    Sad. I wonder if there are no other options.

  11. firepigette Says:

    It is not a matter of judgment.It is a matter of seeing the situation clearly and making a choice.What good does it do Venezuela to be full of all manners of ninis and or people who are unwilling to fight for freedom? And what good can Venezuela do a group of people who do not like Chavez’s system?

    The problem with staying in Venezuela when you are not willing to fight is that right now you pretty much have to be with Chavez either directly or indirectly, and this aspect is about to get much worse.It forces you to takes sides .

    People are free to make a choice, but they should be fulyl aware that it is their decision and not complain later.

    Antonio is correct.To move is super hard but later you wonder why you did not do it before.It almost killed me to move but when I think back on the horror we were living at the time I realize that then I was trying to tolerate the intolerable and living in an unreal world.

    There will be some who cannot move of course, and I feel for them.Best they try and fight.

  12. Roberto N Says:

    Back, yet again, with a freedom of speech issue that this party-of-one ( I hate to use the term administration with this bunch, they don’t administer un carajo) exploits to deviate attention?

    This has all the hallmarks of yet another red flag thrown by Chavez to distract. This latest scrap with the Church, the same.

    Meanwhile, they bring in Rodriguez Chacin to head the Operations and Strategy of the armed forces, are promoting comunas, and have a raft of laws coming down the pike to stifle Venezuela even more.

  13. Kepler Says:

    OT: Does anyone know where Chacín’s hacienda is located? Is it in Barinas?
    I’m preparing a post on the Ducado de Barinas, but in Spanish…I am going to try to show “it” a little differently, with my maps and mind maps.

  14. loroferoz Says:

    I wonder also when the opposition will capitalize on this kind of behavior in the right way.

    It’s right and proper to decry human rights abuses in this affair. But ending there with an “OAS hear us” outcry is not enough.

    The fact is “that anything political has a priority over reality or suffering”. The suffering is that of Venezuelans at the hand of criminals every day, while some idle, no good, cowardly, bullying cops are ordered to go after someone innocent while the malandros keep on robbing and killing as usual. Every Venezuelan could relate to that.

    The other fact is that they are going after people for expressing themselves on the Internet. Stow the talk about most Venezuelans not having access to Internet. Many of them may not have access at home like you and me. But a lot of them have a cybercafe nearby and most of the young ones, rich and poor have email and twitter and facebook accounts, some have a cellphone from which they surf, and have tasted the freest form of expression there is. So, going after people for their behavior in the Internet is going to make people who use it to be free think about the direction the country is taking.

    The last fact is that they are going after ordinary people, not politicians or celebrities, for making random comments. Even if you don’t understand squat about Internet, you can understand what a “sapo” is, and must have a nasty idea or two about proper treatment of the same, even if you are too decent to think of putting them into practice. You could also relate this to the situation of ordinary Cubans, always looking around before saying anything and ask Venezuelans if they want a society of “sapos”.

  15. CARLOS Says:

    Una de las pocas cosas que le he escuchado al Presidente Chavez decir, es que Fidel le dijo que él (HCh) tenia a Miami adentro, en tanto Fidel los tenia bien lejos.

    Cual es la reflexion aqui: Fidel lo tubo mas facil porque la clase media y pudiente emigro? o CH no la ha tenido tan facil (tan facil) porque hay una gran mayoria que sigue luchando? Y es por esto los comentarios de Ch y de DC para que nos larguemos, para que otra Miami este afuera.

  16. Gordo Says:

    These events in Venezuela sound so familiar. Similar to the last days in South Africa under apartheid and in Iran under the Shaw. Both Apartheid and the Shaw soon gave up power. In Iran there was confrontation, but in South Africa there was an election, and we know now that the South African people are much better off than the Iranian people. Let’s hope that the future of Venezuela is ultimate chosen by the people at the ballot box.

    I am hoping, that those who are counting the ballot will realize their power and seize the opportunity to serve the people over the tyrant. Let us hope, that the tyrant cannot overcome the will of the people once the people have made their choice.

  17. loroferoz Says:

    Gordo:

    Tyrannies can be overthrown; but they can be substituted by other tyrannies.

    Iran and other cases show us that much.

    It is important to build a culture of tolerance, citizenship and freedom. It is also important to dismantle all the things from the “4th.” Republic and those new from the “5th.” Republic that have allowed authoritarianism to bloom.

    Serving the people, at times means looking hard into the utility (to the people, that is) and the ethics of having certain things in your country. I don’t know if you agree. But…

    PDVSA and all nationalized industries, whether they produce profit or not;
    the Armed Forces, National Guard and all of State Intelligence Services; Conatel; most of SENIAT; INTI; the CNE and many other departments of central government…

    merit a very hard look, to see if they are worth the trouble and the risk (to the people, that is), at all. Of course, you might do with those if you can effectively prevent some situations from ever arising. For example, the Costa Ricans, the Swiss and the Japanese would have it hard to start wars or to stage coups d’etat.

    If there is no central bureaucracy “regulating” broadcasting and no punitive or discretionary rules for the it, it will be nigh impossible to close down a TV station.

  18. loroferoz Says:

    Gordo:

    Tyrannies can be overthrown; but they can be substituted by other tyrannies.

    Iran and other cases show us that much.

    It is important to build a culture of tolerance, citizenship and freedom. It is also important to dismantle all the things from the “4th.” Republic and those new from the “5th.” Republic that have allowed authoritarianism to bloom.

    Serving the people, at times means looking hard into the utility (to the people, that is) and the ethics of having certain things in your country. I don’t know if you agree. But…

    PDVSA and all nationalized industries, whether they produce profit or not;
    the Armed Forces, National Guard and all of State Intelligence Services; Conatel; most of SENIAT; INTI; the CNE and many other departments of central government…

    merit a very hard look, to see if they are worth the trouble and the risk (to the people, that is), at all. Of course, you might do with those if you can effectively prevent some situations from ever arising.

    For example, the Costa Ricans, the Swiss and the Japanese in their very different ways would have it hard to start wars or to stage coups d’etat.

    If there is no central bureaucracy “regulating” broadcasting and no punitive or discretionary rules for the same, it will be nigh impossible to close down a TV station or subject it to confiscation of equipment.


  19. [...] whole thing is not new, I have reported about this fact and this evidence a few times, here, here and here, but just want to add to the clear evidence that the Venezuelan Government under Hugo [...]


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